Ohio SPCA vs. Harrison County
Court Issues Opinion and Judgement Entry in Ohio SPCA vs. Harrison County Ohio Court of Appeals has issued its Opinion and Judgement Entry in the 2010 lawsuit filed by the Ohio SPCA against the Commissioners and Dog Warden of Harrison County.
The lawsuit, filed in August 2010, was based on alleged violations of the Ohio Revised Code in the County’s operation of the Harrison County Dog Pound.
The Opinion and Judgment, which grants a Writ of Mandamus, requires that the Harrison County Board of Commissioners “make and maintain records as is required by Revised Code Chapter 955.” A weekly report of all dogs seized, impounded, redeemed, and destroyed must be submitted by the dog warden in writing to the Board of Commissioners. “Every dog must be accounted for from the day it is impounded until it is adopted, sent to rescue, claimed by owner, or euthanized,” states Teresa Landon, director of the Ohio SPCA.
Additionally, a writ of mandamus was issued requiring certified mail notification to owners of registered dogs seized. The previous practice of making phone calls to owners of licensed dogs is not equivalent to certified mail as required by law. Dogs seized wearing tags must be held for 14 days.
The Court said that it could not find that the present conditions of the pound were “unsuitable,” based on photographs taken of the dog pound after it was cleaned (and empty) dated January 10, 2011, as well as photographs dated June 24, 2011, and an affidavit from the current dog warden. However, the Court stated that, “...given Respondents acknowledgment of practices that occurred under prior wardens, some of which may very well constitute unsuitability, we caution
respondents to maintain a suitable pound or a writ could be issued against them in future litigation.”
A big win in this case is that the Court ruled that 959.131 does apply to dog wardens. “A suitable dog pound must be a place that would not constitute cruelty to the dog as defined in R.C. 959.131.” John A. Bell, attorney for the Ohio SPCA, states, “County operated facilities are held to the same standards as everyone else regarding animal cruelty and neglect. Dogs must be kept in conditions that do not violate the Animal Cruelty and Companion Animal Cruelty provisions in the Ohio Revised Code, free from unnecessary pain and suffering.”
Due to a dog owner's rights of redemption, the Court also issued a Writ of Manadmus requiring the commissioners, “to post the pound's operational hours, including those times when someone is normally there, and phone number.” Landon states, “The Harrison County Commissioner's failure in the past to have definite operational hours increased the possibility of animals that could otherwise have been redeemed or rescued being euthanized.”
According to Landon, “The Harrison County Dog Pound will require continued monitoring to ensure they comply with the findings of the Court. The Opinion and Judgement Entry serves as a clear message to commissioners in other Ohio counties that county dog pounds must follow the Ohio Revised Code and that humane conditions must be maintained.”
Homemade Gas Box Closed
You will see that animals slept next to where they died. The homemade gas box was in full view of other dogs, so they could hear the cries of those shoved into the gas box. It was barbaric and inhumane to say the least.
On October 1, 2008 we were thrilled when our request to close the homemade gas box, which had been constructed by local county garage workers, became reality. Dogs at the Harrison County Dog Pound are now euthanized by injection.
Nonetheless, Harrison County Dog Pound remains plagued with problems. The operation of this facility is substandard. There are no exterior walls. The facility itself is little more than a pavilion, on an old cracked concrete slab that directly adjoins a toxic waste site. Prior to the fall of 2007, it had no roof whatsoever.
Welcome Sign at Harrison County Dog Pound
It is often unmanned, which is part of the reason why they remain “high kill.” “It is difficult to rescue a dog from a dog pound facility when nobody is there on a regular basis during normal working hours. We brought our concerns to the County regarding the dog pound being unmanned. The County’s position is that it is not necessary. According to the Times Reporter newspaper, Assistant Prosecutor Michael Washington maintained, “…The dog drop-off area has to be checked only once every 24 hours”.
This is not acceptable. The animals are obviously not a priority at this pound. Robin McClelland, Ohio SPCA Eastern Counties Coordinator, has witnessed unsanitary conditions including dog feces discarded in empty dog food bags with used needles on the top in an area that is public accessible and eventually thrown into the same unlocked dumpster as the dead animal carcasses. She has witnessed new dogs entering the facility put into dirty cages covered in urine and feces where another dog had been. None of the bowls are washed regularly, if at all, and food is stored in rusty 55-gallon drums. The cost to pull a dog is a whopping $30, generally with no vaccinations, and spay/neuter is not an option. In short, Harrison continues to be a closed, locked, rescue unfriendly, and unmanned dog pound. Animals are not permitted to be posted on the Internet.
It is mind boggling that this operation flew under the radar for this extended period of time. It is confusing why this rural Appalachian County is anti-rescue, given the fact during a brief period from August 21, 2008 through October 26th, 2008, not one dog was put down due to rescue, and the county enjoyed more revenue during that period than they would see in an entire year from the sale of dog licenses and adoption fees. With the “winter wrap” still up in July, combined with no staff on site, these animals simply have little or no chance of being seen or adopted. Therefore, the Ohio SPCA was forced to file an extensive record request upon this County, requesting records for several years. In response, we received a mere 22 pages of documents. We will not rest until we have made a difference, through much needed reform. Please check back to see our progress.